Jan. 4, 2013
By Jon Cooper
– Georgia Tech tries to carry its non-conference hot streak into conference play this afternoon, when it kicks off its 2013 ACC season against the University of Miami at McCamish Pavilion. Tip-off is at 2:30 p.m. It’s fitting that the Hurricanes open Tech’s ACC history at McCamish Pavilion, as the ‘Canes closed the book on Alexander Memorial Coliseum, back on March 6, 2011, a 66-57 Georgia Tech win.
The Yellow Jackets head into ACC play having won six straight games, all at home. The Jackets extended their streak Wednesday night, besting Chattanooga, 74-58. Freshman Marcus Georges-Hunt led the Yellow Jackets with 16 and fellow frosh Robert Carter, Jr. had a 13-point, 12-rebound double-double to lead the Jackets, who led by five at the half then broke open the game with a 15-6 second-half run.
The Hurricanes open their ACC season having snapped a two-game losing streak their last time out, rallying to beat LaSalle, 76-59, on Wednesday night at the BankUnited Center. Guards Shane Larkin and Durand Scott each had 18 for the U, which used a 16-2 second-half run to put away the stubborn Explorers, who led 36-30 at the half. Miami comes into the game without senior center and double-double machine Reggie Johnson, who will be out six-to-eight weeks with a broken left thumb suffered at the Diamond Head Classic. The ‘Canes are 1-2 without their big man.
Tonight’s game will be the 16th meeting in the series. The Hurricanes hold a 9-6 edge, have won the last two meetings and eight of the last 10. Tech holds a 4-3 advantage all-time in Atlanta.
The game can be seen on WATL locally and on the ACC Network, with Bob Rathbun and Mike Gminski calling the action. It also can be heard on the Georgia Tech IMG Sports Network, WQXI-AM (790 the Zone) and WYAY (106.7 FM), with Wes Durham and Randy Waters calling the action and via Satellite Radio (Sirius Ch. 139, XM Ch. 193). Tech fans also can follow the game online on ESPN3 or Ramblinwreck.com.
And now, the starting five for today’s game.
The Last Time We Met: Georgia Tech saw its 2011-12 season come to an end in the first round of the ACC Tournament, falling, 54-36, to Miami at Philips Arena. Mfon Udofia had 13 points and Brandon Reed added 11 for the Jackets. Georgia Tech’s offense never got going, yet the Jackets still led 20-19 at intermission. But in the second half, a pair of Rion Brown threes gave Miami the lead for good as the Hurricanes outscored the Yellow Jackets 35-19 in the final 20 minutes. Tech shot 33 percent in the second half (6-of-18) and made only 31.8 percent of its shots for the game and only 18.8 from three (3-for-16).
Points At A Premium: Neither Georgia Tech nor Miami is exactly lighting it up offensively, as the Jackets head into today’s game scoring 66.6 points a game, 11th in the 12-team ACC (ahead of only Virginia’s 64.8 ppg), while Miami is eighth at 69.4 points per game. The teams rank eighth and ninth in field goal percentage, with Miami shooting 45.4 to Tech’s 44.0. Both teams make up for their offensive deficiencies on the defensive end, where Georgia Tech’s 53.5 ppg rank second (to Virginia’s 50.7), while Miami gives up 60.1 ppg (fifth). Tech also is second in field goal percentage defense (35.1) while Miami is fourth at 37.8. The three-point shot has not been friendly to either team, as Tech is last in the conference, shooting 30.5 percent, although they are second in defending the three-point line (28.9, tied with Virginia). Miami is eighth both in shooting the three (34.4) and defending it (31.0).
Taking Care of the Ball, Business: A key element in Georgia Tech’s current win streak is its ability to take care of the basketball. In five of the six games during the streak the Jackets have recorded more assists than turnovers, and the only game they didn’t they were minus-two against The Citadel. Success when having a positive assist-to-turnover ratio has been evident throughout the Brian Gregory Era, as the Jackets are 13-3 all-time under Gregory in such games, and they are a perfect 7-0 this season. Point guards Mfon Udofia and Brandon Reed have been a big reason for the success. Over the last five games, both have assist-to-turnover ratios of close to 3:1, with Udofia handing out 21 assists to eight turnovers, while Reed has handed out 11 assists vs. only four turnovers.
Got the Point: Point guard Mfon Udofia has been the ideal senior leader. He’s leading the team with 42 assists (his 3.5 assists per game rank 10th in the ACC), and has a 1.9 assist-to-turnover ratio for the season, good for sixth in the conference. Udofia leads the team in minutes (28.1 mpg), is leading the team in three-point shooting, converting at 39.5 percent. (15-for-38), and is second in field goal percentage at 52.5 percent (Kam Holsey leads at 59.2). Both shooting percentages are a nice development, as Udofia came into his senior season shooting 39.2 percent, with a career-best 38.3 last season. His three-point improvement is even more profound, as Mfon was a career 31.9 percent shooter from downtown, with his best season being his junior year, when he shot 32.1.
U-Turn?: Last year’s series with Miami, with the two games decided by a combined 33 points — 15- and 18-point games — was the exception to the rule. Of the series’ 13 previous games, 10 were decided by 10-or-fewer points and another was decided by 11. The Jackets were 5-5 in such games and 3-1 in such games played at Alexander Memorial Coliseum (they were 4-2 overall in games played at AMC).
The Sixth Man: Georgia Tech’s next win will match last season’s total. The 2011-12 Jackets didn’t get win No. 11 until March 3, a regular-season-closing 69-62 win over Wake Forest … Georgia Tech’s RPI and Strength of Schedule have both dipped since the start of the season. Tech enters today’s game with an RPI of 114 and a No. 303 strength of schedule. Miami enters today’s game with an RPI of 11 and a strength of schedule rated as high as fourth … The Yellow Jackets have drawn an average of 7,071 fans to its first eight games at McCamish Pavilion and has rewarded fans by starting 8-0 at home … Kammeon Holsey is ranked in the top 25 in the ACC in rebounding (5.0 rpg) despite averaging only 19.3 minutes per game … The last time the Jackets started 10-2 and had a six-game winning streak was 2009-10. That year they began 11-2 with a seven-game winning streak. That year also was the most recent that they qualified for postseason play … There are nine players from both teams that played in the finale of Alexander Memorial Coliseum. Among them are Georgia Tech’s Udofia, Holsey, Daniel Miller and Jason Morris. Miami players include Johnson, Scott, Brown, Julian Gamble, and Erik Swoope.
GEORGIA TECH LEADING SCORER: Marcus Georges-Hunt, 11.5 ppg
MIAMI LEADING SCORER: Durand Scott, 15.9 ppg
GEORGIA TECH LEADING REBOUNDER: Robert Carter, Jr., 6.8 rpg
MIAMI LEADING REBOUNDER: Kenny Kadji, 7.0 rpg (Reggie Johnson leads with 10.1 rpg but is injured)
GEORGIA TECH PPG: 66.6 ppg.
OPP. PPG: 53.5 ppg.
MIAMI PPG: 69.4 ppg.
OPP. PPG: 60.1 ppg.
MIAMI Player to Watch – Shane Larkin: The 5-11 sophomore guard is a lot more than Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop Barry Larkin’s son. He’s become one of the ACC’s most explosive point guards, a lightning-quick game-changer on either end of the floor. Larkin is second on the team in scoring (13.5 ppg.), leads the team in three-point shooting, hitting right at 44 percent, and is money from the foul line, connecting at 83.3 percent. The most durable player in the league — his 36.1 mpg, rank slightly ahead of backcourt mate Durand Scott’s 36.0 — Shane hands out 3.7 assists, (ninth in the conference) and is a ballhawk making 2.3 steals per game, second in the ACC.